As someone who has attended and spoken at many SLA conferences (Special Libraries Association) over the years, I have some history and background to draw from. Annual meetings of this size and scope involve a lot of details, and I congratulate all involved at SLA for the hours of planning and preparation they devoted, resulting in another successful show.
The following are my personal observations and opinions, formed with the context of having attended about twenty SLA conferences and spoken at about fifteen conference programs.
Highlights from programs of interest to law librarians
Seven Competencies of Highly Effective Knowledge Managers
Excellent program by a perpetual favorite of mine—Stan Garfield, author of “Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program” and always a powerhouse of information and insight. Worthwhile to follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter and check out his website, which is jammed packed with KM content. While I have heard him speak and follow his blog, podcasts and read his articles, listening to him live and in-person is always delightful as he shares his insights which opens one’s eyes to new and valuable thoughts and approaches.
He has so many tips and punchy sayings that it’s hard to pick a few of my favorites, but here are a few:
- Be a knowledge citizen—display accountability for sharing, reusing and improving collective knowledge to create greater value.
- Recognize colleagues—acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the knowledge base.
- Write once and use many ways—share what you have created and what you are learning to be a role model for those around you.
- Earn a reputation—gain the respect of people both inside and outside of the organization based on accomplishments, networking and communications.
New Approaches to ROI: How to Talk About the Value of Information
Demonstrating and communicating value has become a necessity for librarians working in special library settings like law firms. This presentation, delivered by the ever-popular Mary Ellen Bates, who writes and speaks regularly about issues in the information industry. A Bates presentation always provides an entertaining and content-rich performance, and she did not disappoint. She highlighted tools and techniques to help us communicate that instead of being a cost center and black hole of expenses, we are providing high value to our organization and saving money when viewed from a macro point of view.
Getting the Goods: Finding Corporate Registries
Information on international companies is always hard to come by, which is why I appreciated presenters Bobbi Weaver and Victoria North tackling the topic.
Bobbie covered popular Caribbean tax havens like Cayman Islands and Panama and some of the variety found in US Secretary of State corporate search and filing availability, including California, Delaware and Nevada. She mentioned that URLs change so the research might need to search “business search” with the name of the authority to locate the current site, and she shared a useful free site for locating companies called opencorporates, which appears to search over 155 million companies.
Victoria covered the UK and European countries, including:
Don’t Get Faked Out by the News
How to develop informed citizens is a topic that librarians are especially interested in and ought to be, as we have much to contribute. Lesley Farmer attempted to handle the issue with a different approach, which was to initially define fake news as “deliberate, published disinformation/hoax/lie purported to be real news.” Then she discussed the constructed message by examining the components of audience, purpose, format, authorship and content.
Much of the session was focused on media literacy factors and what education practices could be adopted to combat fake news, including the use of reputable sources and fact-checking sites. Leslie shared a number of valuable resources:
- Her library site on Fake News at California State University.
- A list of the ten best fact-checking sites.
- A helpful quiz, “Can you tell news from fake news?”
Another collection of links can be found online at the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians.
Contributing some very interesting insights was Sandra Svoboda, Special Assignments Manager for Detroit’s flagship NPR station WDET, who shared insights from her work with local libraries and contributed some interesting programming ideas on the topic of spotting fake news.
Collection development lightning talks
Several SLA members submitted their proposal for a “lightning talk” that was supposed to be one thought, tip, or trick related to collection development for special librarians. Moderated by SLA Solo Librarians Division Chair Holly Lakatos, the talks included:
- À La Carte On Demand presented by fellow legal librarian and LAC Group colleague Stacey DiFazio, currently Technical Services Librarian at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, who shared the innovative solution she had developed at a former job, based on the iTunes model of content delivery.
- In Case of Disaster Grab Book was presented by Layla Heimlich.
- Resource Discussion List for Principal Stakeholders was presented by John Cruickshank.
- Creating a Community-Focused Collection Policy was presented by Liz Fite.
- A Collection to Better Meet the Needs of Manufacturing and Design Engineers by Gabriele Hysong won the ‘People’s Choice Award’ for best lightning talk. It was her story of initiating what she called a “petting zoo” at the Rolls Royce library to familiarize new staff with the actual parts (corresponding to part numbers) that the company uses in its designs.
In addition, Carolyne Darimont of steel and mining company ArcelorMittal presented Solo Success Story: Best Practices for Dealing With Non-Traditional Library Projects about how she took on a building project that was outside her skill set and scope as a librarian, encouraging everyone to embrace challenges in order to expand their skills. Her lightning talk was about her library’s rental book collection and how to have books without needing to buy them, catalogue them or weed them over time.
Librarian voice, strategy and time management
Three additional programs I found helpful were presented on the topics of processes and time management. I’m sure most law firm librarians would agree, as we are all dealing with more time and resource constraints:
It’s Not How Loudly You Speak, It’s Who Listens: How to Get Your Voice Heard at the Top of Your Organization—Lucrea Dayrit and Karen Reczek discussed the problem of high manager turnover and the importance of managing “up.” They recommend that reports be brief and include both images and executive summaries. They also mentioned the value of Toastmasters as an avenue to enhance speaking and leadership skill, and shared some tips that have worked for them to present an effective elevator speech, to communicate the value a librarian brings to the organization and to develop creative, strategic ways to support the organization’s goals and priorities.
Constructing a Strategic Plan: Essential Processes and Components—Delivered by Mindy Beattie, Rebecca Jones, Amy Shortlidge-Cox, and Kimberly Silk, co-authors of Creating a Culture of Evaluation: Taking Your Library from Talk to Action, focused on strategic assessment and planning, including how to:
- Know what information is critical for you to include in a strategic plan.
- Overcome challenges rather than getting stuck or derailed by them.
- Incorporate benchmark data, a SWOT analysis, and survey or focus group results.
- How to report results to management.
Reference Requests: Time Management and Expectation-Setting Roundtable—Moderated by Holly Lakatos and Heather Gamberg, this session provided an opportunity for group participation, by discussing a scenario and sharing ideas on how to manage time better, brainstorming best practices for achieving work-life balance and articulating methods to set and manage the expectations of your clients.
Looking ahead to SLA 2019
I’ll finish up with a few aspects of this year’s conference that I thought worked well, along with areas that could be considered to enhance next year’s SLA conference.
|Keep on doing this||Room for improvement|
|Program quality||Include speaker names and program descriptions in printed booklet|
|PowerPoints and supporting material||Enhance posting and sharing of slide decks|
|Easy registration||Enhance session timing and scheduling, seemed to be feast or famine|
|Mobile app||Enhance usability and integration|
|Social media and show communications||Promote SLA photo gallery (only 23 pictures were posted)|
Special Libraries Association is an organization of high value and importance to librarians working in law, business, science and other settings outside of traditional public libraries. I believe the 2018 show theme of “Bmore” not only played up the location in Baltimore, but the important concept of our profession continuing to evolve for the future.